Thursday, 28 February 2013

Hoe Fen snowdrops are looking good for next year

Winter bit back last week as two groups from Granta School continued with path repair in Hoe Fen, and planted snowdrops. 

There are plenty of snowdrops already in the Hoe Fen Discovery Area, but some of them were coming up in the paths and were likely to get trodden on, so needed moving.

Hats, scarves and gloves were essential items for everyone as we carefully separated congested clumps of snowdrops into small bunches for replanting. Janet showed us how to use trowels to dig planting holes for bunches of 3 or 4 snowdrops, plant them at the right depth and back fill in the holes properly.



By the end of the session, despite freezing fingers and toes, the team had planted nearly 100 new clumps of snowdrops under the trees by one of the Hoe Fen paths. Some of the visitors walking through the area mentioned how great it was looking. 


By next February the clumps will have bulked up and the whole area will be a real sight. We'll try to remember to photograph exactly the same spot to see the difference the students have made.

Kate Boursnell
Community Reporter

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Student Conservation Day at White Fen

Lois, Janet and I joined 9 student members of Cambridge Universities National Trust Society (plus one from Oxford!) planting over 200 trees last Saturday in the new community woodland area at White Fen. Fortified by hot drinks and biscuits in the Anglesey Abbey restaurant, we arrived at the planting site after about 40 minutes' walk. The route to White Fen is part of the Lodes Way, the 9 mile cycle route from Bottisham to Wicken Fen, so the road was very quiet and nearly all the traffic was of the two wheeled variety.


Everything we needed had been delivered to White Fen in the Wicken Land Rover, ready for everyone to get stuck in. Lois gave us a brief overview of the plans for the community woodland, followed by expert demonstrations of how to plant the 'whips' (small saplings) of goat willow, quick thorn and dogwood. She made it look very easy (but then she had done it just a few times before).

Next, on with the gloves and to work. The sun came out, the skylarks were singing and it began to feel as if winter had loosened its grip at last.

It wasn't quite as easy as Lois had made it look, especially when digging in the edges of the mulch mats (used to suppress competing plants and give the trees the best chance of success) and our straight lines weren't exactly straight...but we left room for Lois to mow between them later in the year.

The return of a biting February wind made the potatoes baked in the camp fire at the nearby Oily Hall wild campsite a very welcome hot lunch. Alex, President of the National Trust Society for Cambridge students, gave a quick overview of the Society. She was Anglesey's first student ambassador, and has used her two summer placements to develop links between the National Trust and the student community. The Society's going very well, with over 400 students on the mailing list, with meetings, talks and events publicised via the usual social media channels. To find out more about the Oily Hall wild camping email:

Light relief was provided during the lunch break (depending on your point of view) by watching the Land Rover being extricated from the mud. Yes, the winching technique really does work. And if it hadn't, the local longhorn cattle looked as though they might be persuaded to help.

We finished our day by planting trees in the rougher ground round the edges of the woodland, before returning to Anglesey Abbey. There, we met some of the thousands of visitors who'd come to see the snowdrops that day. It's been the best weekend for snowdrops at Anglesey this year, with about 90% of them at their peak. I noticed that the local hedgerows were full of snowdrops too, maybe self seeded from the Abbey gardens.

The next student activity is Sat 9th March at Anglesey – working with local school children on new community land art for the restaurant area.

Community Reporter

Monday, 18 February 2013

Luxury for insects at Wicken....

I had a busy week last week with lots of community goings on at half term:

We had the introductory meeting of the Community Liaison Forum at Wicken Fen on Tuesday evening. This new forum combines all of the members of Wickens previous community consultation groups, the Parish Liaison group, the Spine Route Steering Group and the User Forum. The idea is that the group, which has representatives from local parishes and local user groups, such as the Fenland Bridleway Association, is a way for the Trust to communicate it's plans with local people and gain feedback and advice on how it can develop projects with local communities and users in mind. This was an introductory meeting and there were some interesting discussions about what the group is about, how communities can make the most of it and who should be represented.

On Thursday I ran a Geocaching Day at the Fen, giving people a chance to come and have their first go at geocaching during half term. Geocaching is a global treasure hunt, where people hide 'caches' usually lunch boxes and record their location using a GPS. Others can then find the boxes using the co-ordinates and put something in the box and take something out, all with out being spotted by 'Muggles' (non geocachers!) At Wicken we have 5 caches and they also have activities about the fen in them to do. We had lots of interested groups going out to have a go on Thursday and they were all successful in finding their first geocaches.

Friday was another Family Muck In Day where our team of volunteer families constructed a new insect hotel at Wicken Fen. This was made entirely out of recycled items, a frame of pallets, filled with lots of things which make good insect homes. Bamboo in tubes for ladybirds and solitary bees, wood and reed for beetles and  tiles and bricks to create crevices and cracks for spiders and beetles. Thanks again to the families for all their hard work, fortunately the return of some sunshine made it a lovely day to be outdoors.

If you'd like to try making your own insect hotel here is a great link:

Come and check out ours next time you're at Wicken.

Finally on Saturday the Cambridge University National Trust Society students helped us with more tree planting at White Fen, more pictures and info to follow on this from Kate.

Community Ranger

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Molehills and mud

What a difference a fortnight makes!
No snow this week, so Granta School were back to work at Anglesey Abbey after their wildlife tracking last time. The melted snow, visitors' boots and a gang of very active moles have made the paths muddy and slippery, so today's priority was path repair.
The Granta work experience students have been helping us develop and maintain the Discovery Area at Hoe Fen for some time now, so know the ropes.
Teams of students took turns at shovelling shredded branches into the wheelbarrows - surprisingly difficult as the chippings all seem to have stuck together into a solid mass somehow - wheeling the barrows along the winding paths, and tipping the load onto the next area to be repaired.
Then it was all hands to the rakes to spread the chippings out to form a safe, flat walking surface.
Granta teacher Chris Cole gave us a display of the students' work for us to put up in the Hoe Fen Discovery Cabin. Here's a sneak preview, but why not come along and have a look yourself at how the students integrate their work experience at Anglesey Abbey into their school-based learning.
Community Reporter

Monday, 11 February 2013

White Fen Community Woodland

Today we planted 300+ trees at White Fen Community Woodland. The Woodlands Trust Funded the trees and a team of 13 villaers from Lode and Long Meadow put in the hard work to plant them. I was worried last night, with the weather forcast, I thought I woudl have 300 trees to plant in the rain by myself, but they were not detered!

The National Trust has been working with Lode and Long Meadow Parish Council for the last three years toestablish the area as a local woodland for the community. Planting started in 2010 with three community tree planting days in February where 1800 trees were planted.
In 2011 there was further tree planting as part of the Planting Parishes scheme, a joint
project by the Woodlands Trust and East Cambridgeshire District Council to raise
money for planting trees. This funded the planting of 800 trees by the local villagers,
over 40 people turned out for the tree planting day, and a further 1450 trees were
also planted by contractors.
Planting continued in 2012 with a variety of local community groups getting
involved, a team of staff from Halifax Bank, pupils from Perse School in Cambridge
and the National Trust Family Volunteers group. The Woodlands trust also provided
trees for another planting day with local villages from Lode and Long Meadow where
400 now trees were planted and after care work was undertaken on previously
planted trees.

Its great that we've more trees planted already this year, with more still to do. I'm not looking forward mowing season though as it takes a while to get around them all!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

CNTV Clearing Burwell Barn

I've been out on Burwell Fen today with John (Vision Ranger) and the Cambridge National Trust Volunteers. Before christmas the Linley Shaw Trust gave us funding to run some volunteer days to 'Tidy the Vision' basically tidy up some of the ex-agricultural areas on the vision land to make them  nicer and better for visitors. 

The Cambridge National Trust Volunteers were on hand to help and put in a great effort. We successfuly cleared the barn, filled a skip and litter picked the surrounding area. It's now much nicer to pass as a walker or bird watcher who uses the area.

These three pictures show the start, the work in process and the nice clear barn

John trying to fit as much as possible in the skip

Community Ranger

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Scout Leaders Day

Today  I have been at the Cambridge District Scouts leader's day, the annual get together of over 90 scout  leaders in Cambridgeshire. It's been really great finding out about the brilliant things the scouts offer young people in the area and their plans for the future.

I gave a talk about what Wicken can offer the scouts, visits to the fen  for activities such as pond dipping and mini beast hunting which can contribute to completing the  naturalist badge. A badge which is supported by the National Trust , the Wildlife Trusts and the Natural History Museum. I was also letting the Scout leaders know about the wild campsite  at Wicken which is ideal for scout group camp outs, and opportunties we may have for Scout groups to volunteer and do some practical conservation tasks with us. The National Trust and the scouts have similar aims  when it comes to engaging young people with the outdoors so I hope to form some good links with some of Wickens local groups.

Community Ranger